A NEW town council for Great Harwood looks set to become reality after council bosses revealed the results of a public consultation to bring power closer to the people.
Great Harwood could get its own "shadow" council as early as next summer, and is being treated as the jewel in the crown for other townships in Hyndburn to follow in a so-called "devolution revolution".
The next ones are likely to be Rishton, Oswaldtwistle and Clayton-le-Moors – calling the borough council’s current constitution into question.
The borough-wide consultation produced 1,571 responses, of which over a third were from Great Harwood, where the overwhelming majority (94.6 per cent) were in favour of the idea.
Council leader Peter Britcliffe, who first proposed a Great Harwood town council last year, insisted the consultation was a worthwhile exercise, even though just 2.7 per cent of the borough’s voters responded, with 2.2 per cent voting "yes".
He said: "It’s confirmed what we thought. As we expected the response was quite small but there was an area where we had a significant number of responses and that was Great Harwood.
"We have been very anxious to devolve power to our townships. It’s a very exciting development and we’re already looking at the possibility of setting up a contact centre – hopefully in the old Town Hall building. From that we’re hoping we will be able to build a town council on it."
The exact remit of the new body – including composition of councillors, electoral boundaries and tax-raising powers – will be established by a council feasibility review, but Councillor Britcliffe insisted it must have decision-making "teeth".
Great Harwood councillor Roy Atkinson said: "A lot of people can relate to the old urban district council and they feel they really want to take more control of the town."
Barbara Sharples, who sits on the town centre regeneration board, supported the decision. She said: "It’s about local people having a say in how the town is being governed. The contact centre and one-stop shop for people to get information and advice is great because people won’t have to trail into Accrington."
Council bosses believe Hyndburn could be among the first authorities in the country to consider devolving powers under new local government legislation which came into force in April.
All eight areas consulted received more "yes" than "no" votes, with support ranging from Great Harwood’s 95 per cent, to 52 per cent in Baxenden. In Rishton 88 per cent of respondents voted in favour of town councils, while support was at 76 per cent in Clayton-le-Moors.